Wednesday, April 14, 2010

dried oregano = pencil shavings

This could be another case of "stop being so cheap and invest in quality ingredients," but am I the only person who has noticed the remarkable similarity between the smell of dried oregano and of the pencil shavings leftover in those oooooolllllllldddddd school grindy pencil sharpeners?  You know the ones - the big metal guys they attached to the walls of elementary school classrooms when everyone used those huge blue pencils and could just barely spell your name, much less try to write it in fancy looped letters.  I noticed that both last night and tonight, although I was only able to put a name to that familiar smell when I opened my Big Ol' Jar of Oregano tonight.

I think I need to invest in better oregano - buying organic dried basil showed an astonishing amount of difference between generic or even McCormick brand basil.  As I've alluded to in the past, it seems like all cookbook authors/pro-chefs have their "pet" ingredient.  Rachael Ray has EVOO (oh so cute! *gag*), Robin Robertson has soy crumbles, Nava Atlas has sun-dried tomatoes, and though I haven't nailed it down yet, I think Dynise Balcavage's pet is paprika, possibly nutritional yeast ("nooch").  Having made exactly two whole recipes from The Complete Vegan Cookbook, it seems they include oregano frequently.  This is a shame, between the unfortunate smell association and the fact that Mister and I favor basil hands down.  I don't think either of us truly grasped our growing hatred of oregano, though, until last night's dinner.


It looks tasty and innocuous enough, sure, but we ended up having quite a time of the Southwestern Corn, Chard, and Potato Soup.  I was shocked when I presented the week's menu to Mister and he actually chose the only soup on there for dinner last night.  I learned two things about oregano:

1. 2 teaspoons is absolutely too much for any recipe.  If I had doubled everything else in this recipe, it still would have been too much.

2. Dried oregano doesn't actually EVER reconstitute or soften, even if you simmer it in very hot soup for 30 minutes.  It will be just as dry and throat-prickly after steeping for 30 minutes as it would be if you just emptied the jar into your opened mouth; either way you're going to choke.

Without the oregano, I'm pretty sure this would be a great soup.  The chard kind of stuck together and I'm not sure what, if anything, can be done about that, but the oregano has got to go.  I don't mean, let's cut it down a little - no, it's got to GO.

Tonight, I made Pasta with Adzuki Beans, Tomatoes, Spinach, and Olives.  At least the authors of this cookbook have the same pattern of naming that Colleen seems to follow - which means there should be no mistaking the main ingredients of any dish!  This was very good, although the beans made it just a little chalky and the olives didn't stand out as much as I would have liked.


Despite that, the flavor combination came together just as I thought it would and it was a very easy dinner to make after an exhausting day.  I'm pretty darn impressed with myself for making sense so far, but I may lose it at any moment.  If I'm not as coherent as I think I am, just ignore me - I'll be better tomorrow...or this weekend.

Anyway, there was considerably less oregano in this dish, fortunately, but it was still dreadful and I almost didn't add it but then I thought "What if it's actually important?" and I couldn't think of an adequate substitute.  I did refrain from adding the full cup of vegetable broth the recipe calls for because I really think that it would have contributed more soupiness than flavor.  Perhaps if I make this in the future, I will just add a bouillon cube to the tomato juices and see how that goes.

Speaking of going, I have an important date with Madame White, so ta-ta for now!

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